Honda’s CR Electric Proto Dirt Bike Replacing the CRF450R?

Honda’s CR electric dirt bike logs impressive debut in Japan.

Honda’s new CR Electric Proto made its global competitive debut last weekend in Japan, with Trey Canard at the controls.Honda

Despite being around for almost a decade now, electric motorcycles (racing) still don’t garner nearly as much attention as mainstream ICE-powered rigs do. For example, the relatively new MotoE electric series within MotoGP is still evolving but continues to make impressive strides—just look at its recent adoption of a new bike, Ducati’s V21L—which, when you think about it, can only pay dividends for applicable programs in the consumer market. At least that’s the hope over at Honda, which just debuted its new CR Electric Proto at the penultimate round of the 2023 All Japan Motocross Championship last week. With Trey Canard at the helm for HRC, Big Red’s all-electric motocrosser got off to a flying start running as a wild card against gas machines and ended up performing admirably.

The No. 41 all-electric motocrosser ran as a wild card against gas-powered machines and won several holeshots.Honda

The official global racing debut for Honda’s new prototype machine was in the premier IA1 category of the series, running in the heat of competition for the first time, Canard started strongly, settled into a rhythm, and as he got more comfortable on the machine over the weekend, the pace continued to improve. At the end, Canard closed to just 0.7 second off the fastest lap, looking consistently quick.

The CR Electric Proto’s entry into the Japanese competition marks Big Red’s first attempt to field an in-house-developed electric motorcycle in an official race. The bike is closely related to the prototype Honda revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2019 and is yet another sure sign the company’s serious about marketing an electric motorcycle in the near future. Using the CRF250R/CRF250RX as its basis, the CR Electric Proto packs an electric motor, power controller, and battery pack between the frame rails instead of the donor bike’s gas-powered 249cc DOHC single. The brand has said it’s looking to create a rechargeable bike with performance equivalent to the gas-powered CRF250R.

The CR Electric uses the CRF250R as a base, swapping in an electric motor and battery pack where the gas engine would be.Honda

Many have said that the power characteristics of electric motors are ideally suited to off-road bikes in particular, and motocross is a sensible starting point. It’s a field where the instant torque of an electric motor can offer a massive advantage, and where outright range isn’t important. There’s also a benefit with testing prototype parts on a dirt track; any component that can endure the brutal vibration, constant hits, and dirt-spewing environment a motocross bike has to survive is probably more than capable of dealing with daily road use. Honda’s weekend of racing the CR Electric Proto has no doubt provided all kinds of valuable data for the ongoing development of the program, and maybe even a solid step on its pledge to offer 10 new electric models by 2025 (and four models here in the US by 2024–2025). We can only hope.

Big hits, insane berms, and an ocean of dirt make for an ideal testing environment.Honda

As Team HRC’s manager Taichi Honda said; “I am very happy that we were able to complete [the] competitive debut of the CR Electric Proto without any problems, and that we could see that the bike’s performance is strong. It’s Honda’s first major competitive outing for an electric machine so we are very pleased…in bringing another new Honda initiative to the world stage.”